a provincial partnership of community and government focused on increasing safe and effective justice options for women experiencing family violence in Prince Edward Island, Canada

What do women need from the justice system?

How could the justice system better meet the needs of women?

We asked women to think about ways that the justice system could help to meet the needs of women in or leaving abusive relationships. This is what they said:


  • service providers, including teachers, doctors, social workers and others, can take responsibility and action if they notice something is going on
  • provide women with ideas for preventing stranger abuse
  • sit with women with disabilities and tell them what to do, who to tell, how to defend themselves
  • offer self-defense courses
  • secure buildings to prevent people from getting in, but also easy to get out yourself if you are being abused by someone you know
  • legalize pepper spray
  • women need to be taught how to protect themselves financially in a relationship from the start - give them information about whose name the house/assets should be in, how to protect themselves re: the family business
  • show video "Crown Prince", it opened my eyes
  • get information to women about healthy relationships at community centres, grocery stores
  • change social attitude that says "wife crazy" / "man okay"

Service Provision

  • listen to children
  • support victims with counseling
  • because crisis cannot be counted on to occur only during business hours, there needs to be 24 hour services
  • provide child protection for emotional abuse
  • ensure that legal aid is given by lawyers with lots of legal experience and training in the area of woman abuse, who treats women with respect (as if they're paying)
  • don't limit the hours for legal aid
  • provide emergency legal help
  • ensure that there is someone on call to help assess the risk in crisis
  • Social Services and courts can stop putting the responsibility for protecting children on mothers and help them by doing what they can to remove children from the presence of abusers
  • police, social workers, judges, lawyers and other service providers need more training in the area of family violence and woman abuse to ensure that they are compassionate, understanding and non-judgmental
  • police, social workers, judges, lawyers and other service providers need more training in how to work with an abuser
  • provide a person in the police station (not a police officer) who can listen and explain each option and can help women with peace bonds, giving statements and other options, etc. That person can help women to get into the "legal" state of mind and out of the "emotional" state of mind to ensure that others listen to her and respect what she's saying.
  • social services needs to stop asking the children, no matter what their age, who they want to live with when there's been violence between the parents
  • provide clear information about options at one central point so that women don't have to go looking
  • legal aid for family law
  • ensure that there is enough time spent with the children during Home Studies
  • child psychologists in each county
  • make less referrals - don't pass the buck
  • support mothers to help kids get through confusion
  • find some way to help the abuser understand what he is doing to his family
  • have parenting education specifically for families in crisis
  • provide quick responses to violent crisis, in urban AND rural communities
  • one year for a home study is too long - needs to be speeded up
  • need to find other safe places for families to stay when they have older boys (Anderson House won't let them stay)
  • provide a way to get an Victim Assistance Order without a lawyer
  • train police about EPOs and how to follow protocol and ensure that they know that they should not ask the wife if she wants to file charges
  • suicide prevention and counselling for children
  • provide women with a way to hold service providers accountable if they act inappropriately
  • make it ok for a woman to change her statement because she is probably in a high emotional state when she first gives her statement
  • police need to be trained to ask the right questions when women give a statement
  • take the abuser out of the house if s/he is family or a housemate
  • teach people to DO SOMETHING when they are told about abuse
  • teach family and other supporters how to support a women who has been abused

Formal Justice System Process

  • make criminal issues known in family court - make the link to family violence
  • speed up the family law system so the family doesn't hang in the balance
  • have judge specifically for family law with training in family violence
  • provide help for women who have to represent themselves in family court so that they can do some of the work themselves instead of the lawyer (to save money or legal aid hours)
  • lawyers/judges need to believe victims more and not ask for affidavits from other people who have seen what's gone on - people don't want to get involved
  • protect women from further victimization by not allowing abusers to cross-examine their spouses
  • ensure that women are not revictimized by cross-examination techniques used by the abuser's lawyer
  • listen to children
  • improve Summerside court so you don't have to sit face to face with your abuser
  • give longer sentences so people who abuse get the message that it's wrong
  • don't put abusers on house arrest, put them in jail - say it's a serious crime
  • take all of the abusers rights away when there is abuse, then when they get help, give them back one at a time
  • don't allow visitation with abusers until we're sure that children will be safe
  • give more recognition of victim pain in sentencing
  • sentencing should provide some support in stopping abuse - it should be mandatory that the abusers get help
  • sentences should reflect the horrendous nature of the crime
  • make protection of women a priority when sentencing
  • sentence men who abuse women harsher than property crimes


  • tighter legal enforcement of trespassing, peace bonds, restraining orders, etc. need real action not a piece of paper
  • once a settlement or a judgement has been made, provide women with information about what that means and what options are then available if things aren't working
  • enforce decisions, don't leave it up to the woman
  • do a psychiatric exam for serious offenders before he leaves Sleepy Hollow and give the information to the court
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